There’s some amazing themes and plugins being developed for WordPress that handle some of the more complex technical requirements for implementing the Indieweb principles, so I want to now be able to focus on helping others through two methods of outreach. First, to help any current WordPress users understand and integrate Indieweb principles into their site. Second, to help anyone who is interested in setting up a site and open to using WordPress get an Indieweb web presence up and running from the ground up.
This will remain the core thrust of my Indieweb exploration from now on, but I want to also deepen my knowledge of what can be done with WordPress. There’s lots of exciting things on the horizon, and I want to give back to both the WordPress and Indieweb communities through sharing my experiences and lessons learned from the last year.
I really appreciate your “Updated Goals and Purpose” section as they’re something I’ve been slowly beginning to crack away at as well. I’ve begun some work on a book geared toward Gen2+ users as well as doing some additional outreach. I’ve even got a domain registered to target that particular market.)
If you think it would help, I’m happy to help spitball with you to create a more cohesive plan that some of us can work on both individually and as a group.
Aaron, there are a couple of different ways to set up IndieWeb replies in WordPress (or even on other platforms like Known).
Known has a simple reply mechanism, but isn’t always good at including the original context for the reply making the individual post as stand-alone as one might like. Known includes the URL of the post it’s a reply to, but that’s about it. It’s contingent upon the user reading the reply clicking on the link to the original post to put the two together. This is pretty simple and easy when using it to reply to posts on Twitter, but isn’t always as flexible in other contexts.
One of the added values of replies in WordPress is that there’s a bit more flexibility for including a reply context to the post. You’ll note that this reply has some context at the top indicating exactly to what it is I’m replying.
The first way to generically set up a reply on almost any platform that supports sending Webmentions is to write your reply and and include some simple semantic HTML along with the URL of the post you’re replying to that includes a class “u-in-reply-to” within the anchor tag like so: <div class="h-entry">
<a class="u-in-reply-to" href="http://example.com/note123">The post you're replying to</a>
<div class="p-name p-content"> Good point! Now what is the next thing we should do?</div>
If you’re using WordPress, you can do this manually in the traditional content block, though you likely won’t need the div with h-entry as your theme more likely than not already includes it.
More automated replies
If you’d like a quicker method for WordPress, you can use a few simple plugins to get replies working. Generally I recommend David Shanske’s excellent and robust Post Kinds Plugin which handles both reply contexts as well as all of the required markup indicated in the manual example above. Naturally, you’ll also want to have the Webmention Plugin for WordPress installed as well so that the reply is sent via Webmention to the original post so that it can display your reply (if it chooses to–many people moderate their replies, while others simply collect them but don’t display them.)
A few weeks ago I wrote about configuring and using the Post Kinds Plugin in great detail. You should be able to follow the example there, but just choose the “reply” kind instead of the “read” example I’ve used. In the end, it will look a lot like this particular reply you’re reading right now, though in this case, I’ve manually included your original tweet in the body of my reply. A more native Post Kinds generated reply to a tweet can be seen at this example: http://boffosocko.com/2016/08/17/why-norbert-weiner/
Naturally, your next question may be how to POSSE your replies to other services like Twitter. For that, there’s a handful of methods/plugins, though often I suggest doing things manually a few times to familiarize yourself with the process of what’s happening. Then you can experiment around with one or more of the methods/plugins. In general the easier the plugin is to set up (example: JetPack), the less control you have over how it looks while the more complicated it is (example: SNAP), the more control you have over how the output looks.
If you’d like, feel free to experiment sending replies back to this post while you try things out. If you need additional help, do join one or more of us in the IndieWeb chat.
Most distributed publishing tools are simply too complex for most users to adopt. Mastodon may have overcome that problem, borrowing design ideas from a successful commercial product. But the example of lolicon may challenge our theories in two directions. One, if you’re unable to share content on the sites you’re used to using – Twitter, in this case – you may be more willing to adopt a new tool, even if its interface is initially unfamiliar. Second, an additional barrier to adoption for decentralized publishing may be that its first large userbase is a population that cannot use centralized social networks. Any stigma associated with this community may make it harder for users with other interests to adopt these new tools.
Like many others, I can see many more and stronger reasons for a decentralized web than not. This article takes a look at a little bit of the downside of the model. (Though to be honest, I think the downside for this is even bigger in the siloed model.) Naturally the long term effects are far more complex than described here, but this is also very interesting during a week when there’s a continuing resurgence of neo-Nazis, the alt-right, and other white supremacists in America as well as a growing list of major companies that aren’t allowing them a safe harbor.
The US Government subpoena to DreamHost this week for visitors of an anti-Trump website and backbone internet companies like CloudFlare kicking off “The Daily Stormer” are particularly intriguing in the larger ecosystem as well.
I think there’s a lot here that’s both interesting to the IndieWeb community and from which we can all learn.
As I’m thinking about it, I wonder a bit what happens to the role of “community manager” in a larger decentralized and independent web? I hope it’s tummelers like Tantek Çelik, Kevin Marks, Jeremy Keith, Martijn van der Ven and others who continue to blaze the trail.
Seit ein paar Wochen schon mache ich mir Gedanken wie ich der Flut an Informationen in sozialen Netzen entfliehen kann. Wobei Informationen hier vielleicht nicht das korrekte Wort ist, denn der größte Teil was auf Twitter & Co. geteilt und veröffentlicht wird, ist Content nach dem ich überhaupt ...
The title of this piece translates as “Less social media, more people”.
My favorite quote from it, roughly translated from German is:
I would like to see contributions for which I am really interested, which stimulate me to think, in which I can learn something.
This is about as good a reason to join the IndieWeb as one could want.
Audio edition for This Week in the IndieWeb for July 29th - August 4th, 2017.
This week features a brief interview with Ben Werdmüller recorded at IndieWeb Summit 2017.
Music from Aaron Parecki’s 100DaysOfMusic project: Day 85 - Suit, Day 48 - Glitch, Day 49 - Floating, Day 9, and Day 11
Thanks to everyone in the IndieWeb chat for their feedback and suggestions. Please drop me a note if there are any changes you’d like to see for this audio edition!
Rich Borschelt is the communication director for science at the Department of Energy, and recently attended a science communication workshop. He describes at some length his frustration at the failed model of science communication, in which every meeting hashes over the same futile set of assumptions: “Communication, Literacy, Policy: Thoughts on SciComm in a Democracy. After several other issues, he turns to the conferences’ attitude about scientists...
John’s note reminds me that I’ve been watching a growing and nasty trend against science, much less science communication, in the past several years. We’re going to be needing a lot more help than we’re getting lately to turn the tide for the better. Perhaps more scientists having their own websites and expanding on the practice of samizdat would help things out a bit?
I recently came across Science Sites, a non-profit web company, courtesy of mathematician Steven Strogatz who has a site built by them. In some sense, I see some of what they’re doing to be enabling scientists to become part of the IndieWeb. It would be great to see them support standards like Webmention or functionality like Micropub as well. (It looks like they’re doing a lot of building on SquareSpace, so by proxy it would be great if they were supporting these open standards.) I love that it seems to have been created by a group of science journalists to help out the cause.
As I watch some of the Domain of One’s Own community in higher education, it feels to me that it’s primarily full of humanities related professors and researchers and doesn’t seem to be doing enough outreach to their science, engineering, math, or other colleagues who desperately need these tools as well as help with basic communication.
A WordPress plugin that allows you to easily create a huge variety of social media post types to own your social media life online.
Within the broader social media world there are a huge variety of types of posts. These range from common articles to status updates to likes or favorites to more varied post types like photos, bookmarks, RSVPs, checkins, videos, reviews, jams, reads, audio, exercise, food, recipes, and even an exotic and rare chicken post type. While this list barely scratches the surface, the IndieWeb wiki has an almost exhaustive list along with examples.
Many social platforms sub-specialize in only one specific post type while others provide support for multiple types. Here are some common examples:
Twitter: status updates
Instagram: photos, videos
Facebook: status updates, articles, photos, videos, links, events, life events, checkins, emotions
LinkedIn: status updates, articles, résumés
Tumblr: text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio and video
Last.fm: listens (aka scrobbles)
Wouldn’t it be better to have a single personal website where you could post all these types of content easily and quickly?!
For a few years now, I’ve been posting these and many other types of posts on my personal website. When it’s appropriate I crosspost many of them to the social media silos that support these types so that friends, family, and colleagues can subscribe to them in the way that’s easiest for them.
Post Kinds Plugin
The Post Kinds Plugin for WordPress attempts to make it much easier to create customized displays for and format each of these types of posts (and many more). It leverages the flexibility and power of WordPress to be your single social media hub while, along with other IndieWeb friendly plugins, still allowing you to interact with other social networks.
Post Kinds Plugin not only indicates in the metadata what each post type is, but provides each post with some contextualization as well as the appropriate microformats classes to make it easier for other sites or parsers to interpret these posts. In short it helps to make status updates look like status updates; favorites appear like favorites; (schnozzberrys look like schnozzberrys); and RSVPs look like RSVPs in keeping with common user interfaces on many social platforms. (And in case you didn’t know, you can now post an RSVP on your own website and send a notification to posts elsewhere on the web of your intention!)
Post Kinds Plugin is different from WordPress’s Post Formats functionality
This sounds a little bit like the WordPress theme specific functionality of Post Formats, doesn’t it? Yes and resoundingly no!
Post Formats was a WordPress feature introduced in version 3.1, ostensibly to compete with other social platforms like Tumblr which offers the explicit post types of text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio and video.
Within WordPress, post formats are available for users to choose from if the theme enables support for them. And typically if they do support them they often provide specific display outputs and CSS styling that are controlled by the theme, often to make them look like what users have come to expect these post types to look like on other social media platforms. As an example, a “Status” post would typically display a short update which doesn’t include a title. Each theme that supports post formats chooses which ones they support, how to display them, and they can vary quite a bit from one theme to the next.
Below is the list of the nine supported formats with brief descriptions of their purpose taken from the WordPress codex:
aside – Typically styled without a title. Similar to a Facebook note update.
gallery – A gallery of images. Post will likely contain a gallery shortcode and will have image attachments.
link – A link to another site. Themes may wish to use the first <a href=” “> tag in the post content as the external link for that post. An alternative approach could be if the post consists only of a URL, then that will be the URL and the title (post_title) will be the name attached to the anchor for it.
image – A single image. The first <img /> tag in the post could be considered the image. Alternatively, if the post consists only of a URL, that will be the image URL and the title of the post (post_title) will be the title attribute for the image.
quote – A quotation. Probably will contain a blockquote holding the quote content. Alternatively, the quote may be just the content, with the source/author being the title.
status – A short status update, similar to a Twitter status update.
video – A single video or video playlist. The first <video width=”300″ height=”150″> tag or object/embed in the post content could be considered the video. Alternatively, if the post consists only of a URL, that will be the video URL. May also contain the video as an attachment to the post, if video support is enabled on the blog (like via a plugin).
audio – An audio file or playlist. Could be used for Podcasting.
chat – A chat transcript
There is anecdotal evidence that the WordPress Post Format functionality is slowly falling out of favor and there hasn’t been much, if any, change in how the feature works in the past several years.
The Post Kinds Plugin in many respects picks up where Post Formats left off, extends them significantly, and also builds a stronger platform for more modern website to website interactions.
The Post Kinds Plugin out of the box generally does an excellent job of styling with some generic CSS to make these various post types look and behave as one expects without any changes or modifications to one’s theme. However, designers are more than welcome to either customize their CSS to their hearts’ content, or, if they prefer, they can manually code specific template views to override the plugin’s original views within their theme or child theme.
Because, in part, the Post Kinds Plugin is designed for use with IndieWeb philosophies in mind, it has built in microformats support. What are microformats? They’re simple semantic classes added to the HTML of one’s site that allow parsers or other programs to read the data on your posts and pages to provide extended or increased functionality. WordPress’s core functionality already includes some microformats version 1 support; Post Kinds Plugin extends this quite a bit and uses the more modern version 2 specifications. Because Post Kinds takes care of these additional microformats, some older themes will have a leg up in the IndieWeb space despite having either limited or no theme support.
As an example using the reply post kind, the context from the site for which the particular post is actually a reply to is wrapped with the semantic class “p-in-reply-to”. As an example of the extended functionality provided by microformats, if one is using the Webmentions Plugin to send a webmention to the post that is being replied to, that remote site can parse the reply and display it properly as a reply in their comments section. (For WordPress sites receiving these webmentions, they can utilize the parser built into the Semantic Linkbacks Plugin.)
Similarly, bookmarklets, feed readers, or other programs could utilize these microformats and the data on your page to create customized views and displays.
Plugin Installation and Configuration
Installation of the plugin is relatively straightforward. From the Plugin tab in the WordPress admin interface, one can click the Add New button at the top of the page and either search for the plugin within the repository and install and activate it, or they can use the Upload Plugin button and install it from a prior download from either the WordPress repository or from the GitHub repository.
Configuration can be done from the Settings tab within the WordPress admin interface or, if the IndieWeb Plugin is installed, the settings can be found under IndieWeb » Post Kinds tabs in the admin interface.
Within the settings you can choose the post kinds you wish to enable on a particular site–not all sites will necessarily need or even want all types. I recommend only enabling the specific kinds you will actively be using; you can always come back and add additional types in the future. Some types may be enabled by other specific plugins that work in conjunction with Post Kinds Plugin.
Not having a post kind enabled will not disable the functionality on existing posts, it only hides the selection in adding new posts. This way if you enable favorites as a type and only use it a few times before deciding to disable it, the old posts will still exist and display properly.
You can also enable a Default Kind for New Posts. Most people will likely choose Article which is the default, but if your site is primarily used like a microblog for short status updates, then obviously Note may be your best default. Are you building a linkblog? Then you could enable the Bookmark kind.
How to use Post Kinds in practice
So how does this all actually work for creating posts?
Let’s start with a simple example. Let’s say I read a lot online and I’d like to have a linkblog of all of the articles I read. Let’s say I’m reading the article Lyme Disease’s Worst Enemy? It Might Be Foxesin the New York Times. I’d like to start out by creating a read post to indicate to those following me that I’ve read this particular article.
While I could do it manually, typically I’ll use a custom bookmarklet (more on how to do this shortly), which I click on in my browser bar as I read the article. The bookmarklet will create a new WordPress post and automatically fill in the URL of the article into the “Post Properties” metabox created by the Post Kinds Plugin in the admin UI of my WordPress site.
Then, I will click on the blue Retrieve button (pictured above) just under the post’s URL. The Post Kinds Plugin will parse the New York Times article page for either explicit metadata or Open Graph data to fill in some context about the article I’m reading in the Post Properties meta box. The main tab will autofill with the Name/Title of the article, a Summary/Quote of the article, and Tags if available. Similarly the other tabs in the Post Properties meta box including Details, Author, and Other will fill in with any available metadata about the Lyme disease post I’m reading.
In this particular example, the Times didn’t do a good job on the author data, so I’ll go to that tab and manually cut/paste the author’s name into the Author/Artist Name field, their URL into the Author/Artist URL field, and (optionally) the URL for their photo image as well. If other fields are improperly filled out or you would like to change them, one can manually adjust them if necessary. Not all kinds need (or show) all theses metadata fields when they’re ultimately published.
The retrieve button will also attempt to fill in an appropriate post Title into the posts’ field for that, but it can be modified manually if necessary. On many post kinds, though one may fill in an explicit (traditional WordPress post) title, it may not display on the final post because an explicit title isn’t really needed and the Post Kinds Plugin won’t display it. The note kind is a particular example of this behaviour.
Now that the contextual part of the post I’m reading is handled, I can, if I choose, add any notes, quotes, thoughts, or other personal data about what I’ve read into the main text box for the particular post.
The bookmarklet should have automatically set the post kind selector in the Kind metabox to Read and, if available, the older WordPress post format to link. (These can be changed or overridden manually if necessary.) Post Kinds does its best to properly and appropriately map Post Kinds to Post Formats, but the relationship isn’t always necessarily one-to-one and there are obviously many more kinds available than there are post formats.
Finally, the article can be published (unless you want to add any additional metadata to your post for other plugins or needs.)
Now I can also go to the URL of my personal site at http://example.com/kind/read/ where I can find an archive of this and all the posts I’ve read in the past.
Other post kinds work relatively similarly, though some may take advantage of other appropriate metadata fields in the Post Property meta box. (For example RSVPs use the RSVP dropdown field within the Other tab in the Post Property box.)
Custom feeds for Post Kinds
For sites adding lots of different post kinds all at once, the extra possible “noise” in one’s RSS feeds may have the potential to turn a site’s subscriber’s off. Fortunately the plugin also has custom RSS feeds for each of the particular post kinds which follows a particular format. As an example, the RSS feed for all the posts marked as “Note”, could be found at either the URL http://www.example.com/kind/note/feed
or http://www.example.com/feed/?kind=note (if one doesn’t have pretty permalinks enabled). Other feeds can be obtained by replacing “note” with the base names of the other kinds (reply, article, etc.).
Post Kinds Plugin also handles the display of archives for individual post kinds. To view all the posts marked as notes, for example, one could visit the URL http://www.YOURSITE.COM/kind/note/. Simply replace YOURSITE.COM with your particular site name and the particular post kind name to access the others. In some areas of the social media world, this particular archive display of notes might be considered a personal Twitter-like microblog.
For Post Kinds Plugin users who like the simplicity and ease of use of bookmarklets, one can add ?kindurl=URL to their post editor URL and it will automatically fill this into the URL box in post properties. Adding ?&kind=like to the post editor URL will automatically set the kind.
As a full example, the URL pattern https://www.example.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?kindurl=URL&kind=like will automatically create a new post, set the post kind as like and auto-import the permalink URL for the page into the URL field of the Post Properties meta box.
The following code could also be used as a template to create a full set of browser bookmarklets. (Keep in mind the base URL example.com will need to be changed to the base URL of your personal site for it to work properly. One would also change the word bookmark in the code to any of the other types.)
Now that we’ve seen a few examples and gotten things set up, let’s take a brief look at all of the Post Kinds that are available. To make things a bit easier, we’ll break them up into four groups based on some shared qualities.
The Non-Response Kinds
These kinds have an analog in WordPress’s original post formats. Adding context to one of these may make it a passive kind.
Article – traditional long form content – a post with an explicit post title
Note – short content or status update – a post with just plain content and usually without an explicit post title
Photo – a post with an embedded image as its primary focus. This uses either the featured image or attached images depending on the theme.
Video – a post with an embedded video as its primary focus
Audio – a post with an embedded sound file as its primary focus
The Response Kinds
Response kinds differ from the non-response in that they are usually intended to be interactions with other external sites. For the best experience and improved functionality with these post kinds, it is recommended, but not required, that one have the Webmentions and the Semantic Linkbacks Plugins installed and activated. Doing so will send notifications of the replies and other interactions to those external sites which often display them. (These help your site work just like replies and mentions do on many other social media platforms, they just do so in distributed ways, so that neither you nor your friends necessarily need to be on the same platform or content management system to communicate.)
Reply – used for replying to someone else’s post
Repost – a complete repost of someone else’s content
Like – compliments to the original post/poster
Favorite – content which is special to the favoriter
Bookmark – this is basically sharing/storing a link/bookmark.
Quote – quoted content
RSVP – a specific type of reply regarding attendance of an event
The Passive Kinds
To “Scrobble” a song is to make a related post on your website when listening to it. This is the most well-known example of a passive kind of post. These kinds are formed by having content in the context box on one of these types of posts.
Listen – scrobble – listening to an audio post
Jam – Indicates a specific personally meaningful song
Watch – watching a video
Play – playing a game
Read – reading a book, magazine, or other online material
The following kinds are reserved for future use within the plugin but will not currently show up in the interface unless enabled directly within the code. In some cases, these kinds don’t have the appropriate metadata fields within the plugin to make them user friendly without significant work.
Wish – a post indicating a desire/wish. The archive of all of these posts would be a wishlist, such as a wedding, birthday, or gift registry.
Weather – a weather post would be about current weather conditions
Exercise – represents some form of physical activity
Trip – represents a trip or journey and would require location awareness
Itinerary – refers to scheduled transit, plane, train, etc. and does not generally require location awareness
Check-In – identifying you are at a place. This would use the extended WordPress Geodata. It will require the Simple Location Plugin or something equivalent to add location awareness to posts. Some people are beginning to use this with the OwnYourSwarm application, which may require further configuration of your site to work properly.
Tag – allows you to tag a post as being of a specific tag, or person tagging.
Eat – for recording what you eat, perhaps for a food diary
Drink – similar to Eat, but for beverages
Follow – a post indicating you are now following someone’s activities (online)
Mood – feelings or emotions you’re having at the time of posting
Recipe – ingredients and directions for preparing food or other items
Issue – an article post that is typically a reply to some source code, though potentially anything at a source control repository
Event – a post kind that in addition to a post name (event title) has a start datetime, (likely an end datetime), and a location.
If you’re reading this on my personal website, you can click on and view a variety of these post kinds described above to give you an idea of what they look like (and how they function with respect to Webmentions and other IndieWeb functionalities).
I’ve tried to cover as much of the basics of the plugin and provide some examples and screenshots to make things easier, but as always, there are ways to do additional custom configuration under the hood. I’m sure there are also off-label uses of the plugin to get it to do things the creator didn’t intend.
For additional details, one is certainly encouraged to skim through the code. If you have specific questions or problems, you can usually find the developer of the plugin and many of its users in the IndieWeb chat (web chat, IRC, Slack, etc.) for possible real-time help or support, or you can post questions or issues at the GitHub repo for the project.
Special thanks to David Shanske for creating and doing a stellar job of maintaining the Post Kinds Plugin. Additional thanks to those in the IndieWeb community who continue to refine and revise the principles and methods which make it constantly easier for people to better own and control their social lives online by owning their own websites and data.
The Universal Sign-In Button is a customisable bookmarklet that will auto-fill a sign-in form on the page you are currently visiting and submit it for you. It's a one-click way to tell the current page who you are.
This is simply awesome! I’m such a fan of bookmarklets I actually feel sad I hadn’t thought of doing this before. This simple Universal Sign-in Button tool now greatly reduces the amount of time it takes me to log into IndieWeb and other related sites that offer this functionality.
Signing into websites using my own domain name was an awesome concept, but this greatly speeds up the process and makes it an order of magnitude faster.
Whether you're starting a blog, building your personal brand, posting a resume, promoting a hobby, writing a personal journal, creating an online commonplace book, sharing photos or content with friends, family, or colleagues, writing reviews, sharing recipes, podcasting, or any one of the thousand other things people do online it all starts with having a presence and an identity online.
I remember some of the difficulties I had in understanding, comprehending, and coming to grasp with the overall concept of the IndieWeb. Then I contended with strategies for navigating my way through the wiki and deciding in what order to do things and finding my way into the rich and diverse community of help and additional resources.
I’ve written an introduction–aimed at beginners (and non-developers)–on AltPlatform.org that I hope might help out others who are thinking about or starting their own journey.
Today I’m happy to announce I’ve added a discussions section to the website, directly below each article. Here you’ll be able to directly respond to what you’ve just read, share your thoughts, and have a discussion with other readers of my site. Today’s post is going to take a bit of a look inside why I’m doing this and how discussions work.
Jason your blogpost does a great job of laying out the values (and distractions) of comments on blogs and why someone would want to have them. I particularly like your choice to call this area of his personal site a “Discussion” area instead of the traditional “Comments” moniker most would give it.
While you use the oft-quoted statement (usually said in a dismissive tone in my experience):
If you want to respond, do so on your own website and tell me.
in the section espousing not allowing comments, I realize that this long-held concept of writing on your own website not only has significant value, but that the Indieweb way of replying and utilizing Webmentions (with moderation enabled if one prefers) for the notifications portion adds even more tremendous value.
Far too often, either in a blog’s comments section or even within social media, it’s all too easy to post an ill-conceived or hurtful drive-by response. It takes little time and thought to say “me too”, “I hate you”, “insert slur here”, or even click an innocuous “like” button many which do nothing for the conversation or discussion being proffered by the site owner. Worse, a very small portion of the world will see that a reader took these actions because they don’t really reflect heavily, if at all, within the reader’s own online presence–who searches for comments others have made online? How would you easily? It’s usually in these interactions that only the writer who spent some significant time trying to communicate can be crushed by overwhelming negativity rather than being showered with the intelligence, logic, or forethought they deserve for putting themselves out there, much less receiving praise for their work. It’s no wonder that people prefer to turn off comments.
Earlier this evening as I was reviewing the online discussion from the San Francisco Homebrew Website Club, I saw a comment from bdesham captured by Tantek Çelik, “I heard not having comments on Tumblr was a deliberate design, to avoid abuse, so to comment you have to reblog?” I recall having an HWC at Yahoo’s LA headquarters and hearing from someone within Yahoo that indeed this was exactly the reason that drove this piece of UX/UI. If you wanted to comment on Tumblr, you had to repost the content to your own front page along with the comment. This meant that you had to take true ownership of your words as they appeared front and center on your own site there. Who wants to publicly mark themselves with a proverbial Scarlet Letter just to be mean? (Some will, but increasingly many won’t because it redounds directly to their reputation.) Perhaps this is why some of the most marginalized people on the internet heavily use Tumblr and feel safe within their communities there?
As some will know, for the past few years I’ve been using the W3C’s recommended Webmention specification, a sort of cross-website universal @mention or @reply, which I’ve implemented on WordPress with the Webmention plugin and a few others, to accept replies/comments and other associated interactions on my blog in addition to the traditional comments box. While the traditional comment box has largely been unused on my site–making it often feel in the early days like I was “spewing words out into the void” as Jason describes–the Webmention piece seems to have made a far larger difference to me.
The majority of the interaction my site receives comes via Webmentions from Brid.gy in the form of short one-offs or simple “likes” which are backfed from Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. However a growing number of interactions are actually interesting and more substantive discussions. It’s these more “traditional” replies via Webmention that have the most value to me. They are better thought out replies and helpful commentary, which almost always appear front and center on the commenter’s own site (much the way Tumblr designed theirs) before they ever appear on my site as a comment. As Jason astutely points out, having comments that are longer than 140 characters can be very valuable as well; since my commenters are posting on their own sites where they have ultimate freedom, most of them aren’t constrained in any way except perhaps for the amount of time they wish to take.
So here you are Jason, I’ve commented by posting on my own site first and notifying you by manually copying it to your discussion section where others can participate as well. (If you supported receiving Webmentions, the interaction would be automatic and nearly seamless.) I’m curious if you’d consider implementing the Webmention spec (both sending and receiving) on your website and if you think it would have the same intended effect you mean when you enabled “Discussions” on yours?–I know it feels like it has on mine.
If you care to reply back, feel free to reply on your own site, include a permalink to my original and use the manual Webmention form (below the traditional comment box) and click “Ping Me!” Of course, if you’re old school, feel free to dust off the old comment box and give that a whirl too!
Some additional miscellaneous thoughts, highlights, and short comments on Jason’s post:
Comments sections often become shouting matches or spam-riddled.
They can also become filled with “me too” type of commentary which more than often doesn’t add anything substantive to the conversation.
One of my all-time favorite comment moderation notes comes from the FAQ section of Peter Woit’s blog under “Why Did you Delete my comment?” He writes:
I delete a lot of the comments submitted here. For some postings, the majority of submitted comments get deleted. I don’t delete comments because the commenter disagrees with me, actually comments agreeing with me are deleted far more often than ones that disagree with me. The overall goal is to try and maintain a comment section worth reading, so comments should ideally be well-informed and tell us something true that we didn’t already know. The most common reason for deleting a comment is that it’s off-topic. Often people are inspired by something in a posting to start discussing something else that interests them and that they feel is likely to interest others here. Unfortunately I have neither the time nor inclination to take on the thankless job of running a general discussion forum here.
I hope my thoughts pass the Woit-comment-test for Jason.
For a website the size and popularity of Daring Fireball, it’d probably be madness to foster any kind of coherent conversation.
Certainly to do it without a staff would be difficult… Again here, Audrey Watter’s post about turning off comments indicates to some extent that even though she views her site as her personal blog, it’s audience, like that of Daring Fireball, has gotten so large that it’s not just friends, family, and community, but something beyond “community” (beyond the pale) that changes the dynamic of accepting comments.
I never felt like I was talking with anyone or anyone’s website, but more like I was spewing words out into the void.
I often feel this way, but supporting Webmentions and backfeed has largely negated these feelings for me in the last few years. I can now communicate directly with websites (and their authors) that support these open protocols.
It has the added benefit of making one-word smart-ass posts impossible.
I do remember the days of old, when people would comment “First!”, but beyond that #OneWordSmartAss is usually overrated unless you’re a professional comedian like Jon Stewart.
The University of Mary Washington’s initiative, “Domain of One’s Own,” is phrased thusly as a nod to Virginia Woolf’s essay “A Room of One’s Own,” in which she famously quipped that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” We can critique – and certainly we should – the class implications and expectations in Woolf’s commandment here; and we must consider both the financial burden and the transaction mechanism of a push for domains in education – as Maha notes, for example, many students in Egypt don’t have a credit card with which to make online purchases.
“Give her a room of her own and five hundred a year, let her speak her mind and leave out half that she now puts in, and she will write a better book one of these days,” Woolf wrote in 1929. (That 500 quid is the equivalent to about $37,000 when adjusted for inflation.) But Woolf is not simply talking about having a piece of paper – a title, for example – that decrees she owns the room. It’s about having the financial freedom and a personal space to write.
To own is to possess. To own is to have authority and control. To own is to acknowledge. It implies a responsibility. Ownership is a legal designation; but it’s something more than that too. It’s something more and then, without legal protection, the word also means something less.
There is some important internet philosophy going on in this article. Though written for an education-based audience, I think it’s got an important message for everyone about owning their own space online and being able to write and freely express themselves.
It may be perverse, but in this age of Facebook (now 2 billion strong) I’ve decided to rededicate myself to RSS reading. That’s right: old school, Web 2.0 style.
A big reason is that Facebook’s front page is so, so massively unreliable. Despite having huge numbers of people that are my friends, clients, and contacts, it’s just not a good reading and writing service. Facebook’s black box algorithm(s) may or may not present a given’s user’s post for reasons generally inscrutable. I’ve missed friends’ news about new jobs, divorces, and deaths because the Zuckerbergmachine deems them unworthy of inclusion in my personalized river of news. In turn, I have little sense of who will see my posts, so it’s hard to get responses and very hard to pitch my writing for an intended audience. Together, this makes the FB experience sketchy at best. To improve our use of it we have to turn to experiments and research that remind me of Cold War Kremlinology.
Bryan, so much of what you’re saying is not only not backwards, but truly awesome and inspiring, and not just with respect to RSS.
I’ve lately become more enamored of not only RSS, but new methods for feeds including lighter weight versions like microformats h-feeds. A few months ago I was inspired to embed the awesome PressForward plugin for WordPress into my site, so I could have an integrated feed reader built right in. This makes it far easier to not only quickly share the content from my site, but it means I can also own archival copies of what I’m reading and consuming for later reference, some of which I store privately on the back end of my site as a sort of online commonplace book.
There also seems to be a recent renaissance with the revival of blogrolls. I’ve even recently revived my own to provide subscribe-able OPML lists that others can take advantage of as well. Like your reading list, it’s a work in progress.
On the subject of blogs not being dead and decrying the abuses of the social silos, you might be interested to hear about the Indieweb movement which is helping to both decentralize and re-democratize the web in useful and intelligent ways. They’re helping people to take back their identities online and let them own their own content again. They’re also using open protocols like Webmention (a platform agnostic and universal @mention) and Micropub or syndication methods like POSSE to make it easier to publish, share, and interact with people online anywhere, regardless of the platform(s) on which they’re publishing.
As an example of what they’re doing, I’m publishing this comment on my own site first, and only then sending it as a comment to your post. If you supported Webmention, this would have happened seamlessly and automatically. I’ll also syndicate it as a reply to your tweet, and if you reply on twitter, the comment will be pulled back into my comment stream at the original.